Labdien! (Good day! in Latvian) Steve and I are traveling for two weeks in Latvia and Austria for business (and some pleasure). We left the U.S. on Saturday, the 22nd and arrived in Latvia on the 23rd. But, our luggage did not arrive until today (four days later). I was so happy to see our bags when we went downstairs for breakfast this morning! Delta Airlines at the London airport was holding our luggage "hostage" and would not release them to the airline we flew on (Lufthansa), in spite of many urgent messages and phone calls. I had my cochlear implant equipment and batteries in there, along with other personal items. I did have enough for a few days but was down to the last "drop." Steve gives me a hard time about how much I pack but I'm doing better each time we make a trip. He says the last four days have shown that we can live on less but I digress. I am very uncomfortable wearing the same clothes two or three days in a row and going to business meetings in jeans! We had also brought a trunk full of Kristine's things and a duffle bag of books for Gita, our friend and Latvian pastor of Riga 1st United Methodist Church from our pastor in the U.S.
Our Latvian "daughter," Kristine, who spent four years going to college in Tennessee, met us at the airport with her brother, Ziggy, and our dear friend, Apolonija. They greeted us with flowers and took us to our hotel. Kristine moved back to her Latvia last month and was happy to see us again. We took her out to dinner at the Macaroni Grill that evening and got caught up on all her news. She is glad to be back in Latvia but misses her "home" and friends in the U.S.
Kristine at the Macaroni Grill
Traveling in a different country with a different language is interesting and challenging. The primary language spoken here is Latvian and Russian. Most people here do understand English. Otherwise it would be difficult to communicate at all. I carry my Latvian/English translation book with me everywhere. When we go out to eat, the menus are printed in several different languages.
Kristine has been my translator for me on several occasions, and was a great help at the baggage claim in the airport (even though we didn't find the bags). She asked me later if I was still reading lips even though I could hear now. I told her that I was and probably always will. She asked what her lips looked like when she was speaking Latvian. I had to think about that one for a minute but I will say that it looks like she is "kissing" alot because the Latvians pucker their lips when they talk!
Earlier this week I needed to go shopping for some clothes and personal items to wear because we did not have our luggage. I love riding the tram around town and do fine as long as I have my maps with me and know which tram to take and which direction to go in. The only thing that I don't like about moving about the city alone is that I don't have any means of communication with Steve or our Latvian friends in case of emergency. I miss having the security of my cell phone in my pocket! It's amazing how much we depend on our electronic equipment.
We are staying at the Hotel Forums in Old Riga and are right in the center of the city. I can hear people talking outside, music playing, sirens screaming every now and then, the trams and busses off in the distance, and people walking fast on the cobblestone street/sidewalk below us. The first morning we were here I heard an unusual sound outside our window. I asked Steve if that was a bird and he said that it was the street sweepers cleaning the sidewalk with their brooms. Sure enough, I looked out the window and could see them. They come by every morning and clean the streets and sidewalks. It is very clean here and the litter is cleaned up on a daily basis.
Our hotel is right across the street from another building that houses different venues. It is easy to see what is going on in the rooms across the streets if the windows are open. Right across from our room is a music and dance school. Tonight as Steve and I walked home after dinner, we observed a class of young teenaged students dancing past the windows. We watched them for awhile from our room and it looked like they were practicing traditional Latvian dance steps. It was beautiful and interesting to see! In another room we could see several students taking voice lessons. I could see the piano in the room and the teacher waving her hand to the music.
I love seeing the sights and hearing the sound of new places! I'll write another update soon with more pictures. Until then, "Labvakar!" (Good Night!)